Every August, the city of Edinburgh, Scotland transforms into one sprawling, interactive, enchanting festival. The Edinburgh Fringe festival is the greatest arts festival in the world, boasting one month of nightly shows in hundreds of venues across the city. Pubs, commercial buildings, basements, and genuine theaters host plays, comedy groups, one-woman shows, acapella performances, and circus acts — you name it, the Fringe has seen it. Thousands of young adults flock to the city for a weekend or even a week to spend each day and night consuming as much theater and comedy as possible, all between pints of Guinness with friends and hours spent exploring the decadent city. Here’s why you should be one of those travelers this year.
1. The Perfect Vacation for Groups
The worst part of any vacation is the time spent trying to figure out what to do next, with everyone inevitably wanting to pursue different options. The Fringe, however, truly has something for everyone which makes for a dynamic and always fun holiday. Between improv, puppets, clubbing, musicals, cabaret, burlesque, live music, puppet shows, and children’s theater, there is entertainment for everyone. Come with a group and split up throughout the day, meeting up with people when your interests collide or simply for a bite to eat in between performances.
2. Works for All Budgets
While a trip to Scotland is not cheap (unless you’re based nearby), the actual expenses of the festival itself can be incredibly manageable. This a trip many people undergo on many different budgets. Students often camp nearby paying only the camping fees and then spend their days seeing many of the free shows (though you should still give something at these performances, even if it’s just a few pounds). Travelers with more to cash out will instead rent fancy airbnbs or stay in nearby hotels, seeing iconic performances each night and going through many rounds of drinks before each show. The city really is a playground, and you can shape exactly what you do to best fit your needs while still having an incredible time.
Even without the festival, Edinburgh (and Scotland more generally) is an incredible place to visit. The winding streets look like something out of Harry Potter or a medieval film, with cobblestone paths filled with crammed together store fronts, many levels to the winding roads, and a castle at the very top that looks out to the sea. In between shows, you can check out The National Museum of Scotland, walk through the city’s ancient monuments, or take a day trip to the Scottish highlands.
4. Supports Small Artists And Breakaways
The Fringe is wonderful because there are small free shows by comedians trying to make it as well as sometimes pricey tickets for popular performances with famous groups or individuals. By attending, you get to support smaller artists and maybe catch someone’s show before they make it big or sit down in a pub and happen upon an already established performer.
5. International Exposure
There’s something special about emerging yourself in arts of cultures from around the world. Walking the streets of Edinburgh, performances come from more than 62 countries, and that diversity is reflected in the pubs and streets as well. Celebrate your own culture or learn about someone else’s, but there are few venues as inclusive as the Fringe.
6. 24 Hour Scheduling
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival makes for a perfect vacation because you never have to worry about what to do on any given day or how to fill in the gaps of time between your scheduled plans. For the entire month of August, there is something on the schedule around the clock. In the mornings, catch a show over your daily coffee. Fill the daytime hours with dance, music, circus, theater and comedy shows for all ages. As evening rolls in, more risky shows begin to pop up with some cabaret and comedy performances only starting at midnight. Even better, many bars stay open to 4 or even 5 a.m. so you really never have to go home and sleep if you want to fully throw yourself into the chaos of the experience.
7. A Star Is Born
The Fringe is a great place to see performers before they make it big. The late Robin Williams started performing at the Fringe with his student theater company while he was studying drama at California’s College of Marin. Talk show hosts Graham Norton and Craig Ferguson also got their start at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. More recently, Phoebe Waller-Bridge (writer and star of TV sitcom Fleabag) started out performing Fleabag as a one woman show at the Fringe six years ago. It’s gone on to have TV two seasons and a sold out run off-Broadway, showcasing just how talented some of the everyday and unknown performers of the Fringe often are.
8. The Food
Finally, there are plenty of options for food and drink to try over the course of your trip. Street vendors offer a quick bite between performances (everything from simple mac and cheese dishes to decadent burgers), and the restaurants cater to every preference from vegan meals, ethnic cuisine, and creme brulee burnt to order for those with fancier taste. Additionally, Scotland has a healthy drinking culture and the Fringe does it justice. There are gin bars, countless pints, and even bars set up for outdoor venues. You definitely won’t go hungry or thirsty as you gorge on theater.